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A photographer captured these surreal photos of North Korea’s capital on a state-sanctioned tour


Pyongyang vintage socialist architecture 03

North Korea is one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world. And yet, tourism is booming, all things considered. The government has said it plans to welcome two million tourists annually by 2020.

Foreigners visit through state-sanctioned travel agencies and are supervised from the moment they set foot in the Land of the Morning Calm, which is filled with breathtaking cityscapes and oddly shaped buildings.

There are reminders of North Korea's repressive and totalitarian regime everywhere. Portraits and statues depicting the Kim dynasty are on every corner and demand respect, while tour guides rarely stray from the scripts they are given.

In 2016, photographer Raphael Olivier booked an architecture tour of Pyongyang and captured these remarkable images.

SEE ALSO: Surreal photos of China's failed 'city of the future'

"The first word that comes to mind would be eerie," Olivier says of the general atmosphere in Pyongyang, North Korea.

There are some three million people living in the nation's capital, and yet, most of Olivier's photos show vacant streets.

He says people work, study, and keep busy out-of-sight in the daytime. Oddly, dramatic music blares throughout the downtown area.

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